Monday, February 28, 2011

The Person who Loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

1Cor. 8:3-13 NLT 
   3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.    
   4  So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. 5 There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. 6 But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life. 
   7  However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. 8 It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. 
   9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge” —eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. 13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

There is a huge principle in this passage that reveals a truth about holy living. Living holy is all about living in the power and presence of our most holy Lord and God-- THE God. There is none other than God. And our Lord is God, and our Holy Spirit is God, who now resides within us as He promised through Jesus two thousand years ago. People often ask me is it is all right for a Christian to do this or do that-- things that are not specific to the directives in the Bible. There is the matter of consuming alcohol. The Bible does not tell us not to but many evangelical Christians make it a church guide or rule to abstain. Yet Jesus made wine in the Bible as a miracle, some tell me.  The issue is not to drink it because alcohol is inherently bad.  The issue is to consider how my use of the alcohol might impact another.

Paul said that strong believers all knew there is only the ONE God and that all false idols were nothing but sticks and stones. So eating food that had been a part of a barbecue to honor that stick or stone was nothing to him, not a problem at all.  It did nothing harmful to the meat to barbecue it in front of a stick that some people were calling an idol. He was free. Paul went so far as to point out that for us who are in Christ, "all things are lawful." The caveat, however was that though lawful for us, not all things are expedient. Then Paul pointed out that there are those who watch us and are influenced by what they see us do. They will feel free to engage in things they think we are engaging in. So, if the weaker brother or sister saw us eating that idol-worship meat, he might wrongly conclude that it was OK to worship a false God along with worshipping a real one. He might not even bother to ask us about it and, thus, our example would lead someone in a negative path.

God used this passage in my life when my children were young to convince me that it was not expedient for me to drink alcohol. It would not be a sin for me to drink it, but it was not expedient. Why? Because alcohol is the cause of the most crime in our world. Because alcohol is the single influence that destroys most families in our society. Thus, should my children see me use this dangerous substance and should they be among the percentage of persons biologically attuned to addiction to this substance, my influence could destroy their life. Knowing this, and choosing to exercise that particular freedom anyway-- that would be my sin.

The same is true of many other things that there are no actual scriptural prohibitions about but that faithful Christians choose to exercise restraint over. The good news is that the most destructive behaviors are covered in scripture, We all know about the adultery, fornication, stealing, violence, murder, dishonoring of parents, etc. We all know about keeping God first and foremost and doing His will ahead of our own. We all know about it-- though we may not be as faithful in living by those standards as we might wish.

By turning this scripture around in our lives and embedding it, we can extract the principal that Jesus taught. He taught us to do all we do in ways that glorify God. He taught us to treat other people the way we want to be treated, regardless of how they actually do treat us. He taught us many things and went one step further. He actually made it possible to invest His Spirit into our nature so we could receive the power to live by His standards rather than the world's standards.

Your servant in the Love of God

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